According to Dóci , the Dutch government stands in the way of cooperatives becoming the backbone of the energy transition. ‘Because cooperatives are heterogeneous in composition, contacts, technologies and the context in which they operate’, she states, ‘the chances are great they can become an influential part of the transition. Supporting cooperatives means supporting the energy transition – also because a network of other parties is addressed indirectly.’

So what can be done? Marieke Oteman, PhD candidate renewable energy policy at Radboud University Nijmegen, and others did some research of their own. Both Oteman and Dóci point out that Germany has offered cooperatives security for over a longer period of time (by way of a steadfast feed-in tariff). Moreover, Germany financially supports all renewable energy initiatives, not just the very small or huge ones as in the Netherlands, thereby giving small and medium energy cooperatives the chance to substantially grow.

Last but not least, DRIFT (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions) and a variety of members of energy cooperatives have formulated recommendations to improve cooperative growth. First of all, the national government should counter local and provincial regulations that aim to block citizens’ initiatives. Moreover, just like in Denmark, energy cooperatives should be given the opportunity to (co)exploit offshore wind parks. And finally, government could establish a development mechanism to finance the development phase of larger cooperative projects for wind, solar, heat and energy savings.

Meanwhile, the fast growing cooperative movement is proceeding more or less autonomously to secure a position in new developments such as electric transport, district heating and energy trading for citizens. More than sixty percent of Dutch cooperatives, according to the local energy monitor, buy or sell green electricity while energy savings are even more important.

In electric transport, partly due to (applied) R&D research at HAN University for applied sciences and Eindhoven University of Technology, the provinces Gelderland and Brabant may have taken the cooperative lead. Take for instance ‘Samen slim rijden’ (Smart Driving Together) in the village of Helvoirt. This cooperative has 56 members and two electric cars to share. Or take Lochem Energie. This energy cooperative in Gelderland bought three cars for Elektrip.

Just like buying or selling electricity on the day-ahead market, those programs don’t confine themselves to particular provinces or specific groups. When governments on all levels will eliminate restrictions that hinder the growth of cooperatives and create more favourable (financial) conditions to invest into renewables for them, it’s up to the expertise and know-how of the board to execute viable projects from which its members will reap the fruits.

Image: Teamwork.  CC0 Creative Commons.
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